Friday, September 3, 2010

Purity of Thought

I was following a line of inquiry today in response to working with the Landlearn , Creating Sustainable Futures cards in the Oblique Inspiration series by Natalie McDonagh. The inquiry prompt from one card reads:

"What is the map engraved in your heart?"

For if we pause for a second, we each have our own map of our homeland, coastlines and own fields held in our hearts. These are not just the mental perceptions and assumptions we have of the world, those that reveal themselves in the structures and formations of society. It is the map engraved in our hearts that decides the routes and pathways we feel into.

At this mid-way point in my thesis research, having just returned from presenting overseas on thought and health, I get the indulgence of asking where is my work in the world and what does that look like for the future. It is not hard to see two themes of recurrence in the work and play that has captured my attention. Several years of working in water sustainability, examining the flows and currents within the obstacles to growth and development of organisations, the quality of thought and strategic thinking in all aspects of civil society, and my chosen sports of surfing, kayaking and scuba diving in hundreds of remote locations. Even my forest ecology project has as its focus the brook that runs through it as a life-stream providing habitats of diversity. There is a David Bohm quote that has stayed with me constantly since its first reading. It poses an evocative thought picture:

“Imagine a stream which is being polluted near the source. The people downstream don’t know about that, so they start removing bits of pollution, trying to purify their water, but perhaps introducing more pollution of another kind as they do so. What has to be done, therefore is to see this whole stream, and to get to the source of it. Somewhere, at the source of thought, it is being polluted – that is the suggestion. Pollution is being diverted into the stream, and this is happening all the time. You could say, in one sense, the wrong step was when people first started pouring it in. But the fact that we have kept on pouring it in is the main point – it’s pouring in all the time. Therefore, the source is not in time – not back in ancient times, when it may have started – but rather the source is always now. That’s what we have to look into.” ~ David Bohm

Source: Bohm, D. (1996) On Dialogue. London: Routledge. (p 57)


This it seems is the role and metaphor that is writ upon my heart. The themes of the quality of consciousness as being like water, as the body that surrounds and sustains us. The old metaphorical inquiry of asking does a fish know what water is, is made out daily for me when talking about the structures of consciousness and seeing the astounding revelation people experience when they hear about psychosystem dynamics for the first time. We may recognise and acknowledge that we are in a sea of thought. What is of distance to us conceptually is how the quality of that ocean is profoundly different in a localised way, in its currents, surges and particulates ~ and in another way is of a single purest and unchanging quality. In an allusion to Rumi's poetry, we are not one drop in a mighty ocean, but a mighty ocean's drop and 'what could be luckier than to have the ocean come to court the drop?'

As other people turn to the conservation of the marine and terrestrial aquatic environments that are the fundamental basis and last remaining bastion of our most essential ecoservices for health, I turn once more to the conservation of our psychological environments that are the fundamental basis and first contributor to the quality of our essential psychoservices for humanity's health

It may be many decades before the respect for the generative dynamics of the psychological environment catches up with the recent confirmation of how our perceptual world and our response to it potentially has an epigenetic intergenerational effect that is presently, as we think, having an impact on the future capacities of human thought. Yet, these aspects of care need to begin in one place, to immediately show up in many.

Yet for now at least ... I am going to continue to ask, not the question: "How does a fish know what water is?" ... but explore the implication of the answer, which is to understand that they already know "by the finely tuned sensitivity to the quality of what is all around, in continuously co-evolved forms, so as to have an intimate and present, if unconscious effect, on the awareness of self".

Where that takes us .. we will just have to wait and see.

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